Attorney General Shapiro Announces Charges Against Two Men in PA University Student Travel Scam

November 30, 2018 | Topic: Criminal

Defendants were contracted to provide travel management services; AG to extradite men back from California to face charges

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced that felony charges were filed in Chester County against two men for conspiring to steal money from public universities in Pennsylvania under the guise of operating a travel management agency based in Denver, Colorado.  An investigation by Office of Attorney General Agents led to the discovery that the defendants, Kyle McWhirter and Michael Kennedy, fled to California when the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania attempted to recoup its money.

“McWhirter and Kennedy lied to and stole from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and therefore, the taxpayers of the Commonwealth,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “The universities that paid for travel services are public institutions funded by public dollars, and were acting in the interests of their students to provide a first-class education. The defendants took advantage of that and then ran to avoid being caught, but we have worked diligently to locate them and we are bringing them back to Pennsylvania so they can face justice.”

OAG Agents initiated an investigation into the defendants, who purported to run a company called Pan Am Inc., a travel management service agency.  In August 2015, defendants McWhirter and Kennedy, through Pan Am Inc., contracted with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) to provide travel services to the organization and constituent universities.  In 2016, per the contract, two universities paid Pan Am Inc. to arrange air travel for student trips: West Chester University paid $10,299 for 33 airline tickets to South Africa, and Lock Haven University paid $22,500 for airline tickets to Jamaica.  Neither school received the airline tickets.

Shortly after PASSHE attempted to recover the money, both defendants fled Denver.  OAG Agents discovered that they were hiding from authorities in California, and the office is extraditing them back to Pennsylvania to answer to conspiracy, theft and other felony offenses.  Through the course of the investigation, OAG Agents also discovered that the defendants allegedly ran the same travel business scam to steal money from State of Rhode Island agencies, including the University of Rhode Island, which paid Pan Am Inc. $63,404.

Kyle McWhirter, 39, and Michael Kennedy, 49, both of Washington Street, Grass Valley, CA, are each charged with criminal conspiracy, theft by deception, deceptive or fraudulent business practices, receiving stolen property and related offenses.  The case will be prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General Nicole Forzato

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